Oliver Bugarin 6 0 0 6 min to read

Restore P560 million for the education of handicapped children: Solon

Ilocano Ako Richelle Singson, a representative for the Ako Partylist, urged the House leadership and members once more on Thursday to show their concern for the special kids, also known as learners with disabilities (LWDs), by restoring the PHP560 million allocated for their education in the Department of Education’s proposed 2023 budget (DepEd).

In making the call, Singson stated that “considering the various legal mandates for the budgetary allocations for LWDs and the continuing appropriation in the DepEd budget in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) from 2019 until 2022, it is inconceivable that there is zero budget for LWDs or children with special needs in the proposed FY 2023 DepEd budget.”

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Republic Act (RA) 1053 (Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013), and RA 10410 are among the legislative requirements mentioned by inexperienced politicians (Early Years Act of 2013).

RA 11650, officially known as “Instituting a Policy of Inclusion and Services for Learners with Disabilities in support of Inclusive Education Act,” strengthened these legal requirements even further.

According to the GAA, LWDs were given PHP50 million in 2019 and PHP100 million each in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

The DepEd requested PHP560 million for LWDs during the briefing of the 2023 DepEd budget on September 14, 2022. Still, there was no funding for the purpose of the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted to Congress.

Given these statutory requirements, Singson added, “it is unfathomable that the proposed FY 2023 DepEd budget has zero funding for LWDs or children with special needs.”

She claimed that the required legislation that Congress diligently passed would all be considered “dead letter laws” if they were to accept the zero budget.

Singson felt strongly about the issue, and on behalf of “our exceptional children and their parents,” he wrote a passionate letter to Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Chairperson of the House Appropriations Committee Elizaldy Co, and other House leaders and members on Wednesday.

As a mother myself, she added, “I empathize with our special children not just for the reason of being a mother, but also because it is our moral and legal obligation to help and care for them because they need more attention compared to ordinary children.”

During the DepEd budget discussions in plenary, several lawmakers defended Singson.

Rep. Gabriel Bordado of Camarines Sur’s 3rd District proposed “a Congressional move to give special education the budgetary allocation” it required.

Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay’s 1st District stated that he supports “this request, this advocacy.”

“We are hopeful that there will be enough funding for special needs children’s schooling. During his interpolation of the DepEd budget, he added, “And I am informed that there is an expanding population of special children in the Philippines, and the DepEd is in the process of compiling the data.

However, the seasoned politician argued there is an alternative to congressional action.

Lagman pointed to the PHP150 million in confidential funds of the Department as a starting point and said, “And this is for the DepEd to voluntarily realign its items of expenditure considering that it has PHP74.5-billion increase compared to its current level so that they can produce the amount necessary for the education of the special children.”

While waiting for its suggestions to be approved in previous NEPs, the DepEd promised the lawmakers that it would still fulfill its responsibility to serve unique learners, specifically by reallocating funding as Lagman requested.

“Over the past few years, DepEd has made several realignments depending on internal funding sources to provide services for exceptional learners. We can vouch for the DepEd’s annual practice of this. The Davao de Oro 1st District Representative Maria Carmen Zamora, who sponsored the DepEd budget, stated that the DepEd family is committed to sourcing internally within its organization to ensure and support the program.

Another assurance from Zamora was that “DepEd will shortly submit to the Committee on Appropriations its plan on how they can realign all of their other recommendations and ensure that special education is given its allocation.”

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